JSU alumnus Judge Carlton Reeves confirmed as Commissioner and Chair for U.S. Sentencing Commission

Jackson State University alumnus Judge Carlton Reeves, J.D., makes history as the first Black man to serve as Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission following President Biden’s nomination in May.

The U.S. Senate confirmed a group of seven bipartisan members to serve on the U.S. Sentencing Commission Friday, August 5, providing the independent judicial branch agency with a voting quorum for the first time in more than three years. 

“I am honored to have been nominated to this position by the President and to have been confirmed by the Senate,” commented Reeves.

The other newly confirmed members of the Commission are Circuit Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo, Laura Mate and Claire McCusker Murray, who are expected to be designated as Vice Chairs; District Judge Claria Horn Boom; former District Judge John Gleeson; and Candice Wong.

Upon appointment of the new Commissioners, current Acting Chair Senior District Judge Charles Breyer will step down from his position at the agency.

“It is great news that the Senate has confirmed a full slate of seven bipartisan Commissioners. The lack of a quorum at the Sentencing Commission has created a void in the criminal justice system. As Senior U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California and Acting Chair of the Sentencing Commission, I know all too well the difficulty judges have faced in implementing the criminal justice reforms enacted by the First Step Act in 2018,” said Breyer of the new commissioners.

Reeves shared that the criminal justice system has some troubling divisions that have emerged among courts on sentencing issues during the years the Commission lacked a quorum. 

“My new Commission colleagues are all highly experienced professionals with vast knowledge of and broad expertise in the criminal justice system. Our diverse backgrounds and expertise will bode well as the Commission works to address these complex issues in a bipartisan matter,” added Reeves.

As incoming Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Reeves acknowledged his predecessor’s years of service on the Commission and praised him for the completion of important reports on recidivism, fentanyl, firearms offenses, compassionate release, and more by the agency under his leadership. 

“His efforts to promote transparency and national uniformity in sentencing are to be commended. We look forward to building upon all the great work that Judge Breyer and past Commissioners have done,” Reeves concluded. 

The Commission has lacked a quorum since 2019, which has prevented it from doing critical business. On May 11, 2022, President Biden announced the nominations whose confirmations would allow the Commission to conduct its important work.

Reeves received his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1989 and his B.A. in political science from Jackson State University in 1986.

Reeves has served as a United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi since 2010. He was previously a partner at Pigott Reeves Johnson & Minor, P.A. from 2001 to 2010. From 1995 to 2001, he served as chief of the Civil Division for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi. From 1991 to 1995, Reeves was an associate at Phelps Dunbar LLP. In 1991, he was a staff attorney for the Supreme Court of Mississippi. He served as a law clerk for Justice Reuben V. Anderson on the Mississippi Supreme Court from 1989 to 1990.